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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Intervention for Failing Students: The Mandatory Study Session

Bob Lenz

Founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

At a recent professional-development day, I challenged my colleagues to think about how we could reduce the number of students in our lower division (grades nine and ten) -- especially the ninth graders -- who fail high school courses. "What if we decided that failure is not an option, and that success is the only choice available to us?" I asked them.

Here's one strategy that seems to be working at our newest school, the Impact Academy, in Hayward, California:

  • When a student doesn't complete a major assignment, including an exhibition, an essay, a test, or a lab, the teacher enters his or her name in a shared Google spreadsheet.
  • The school's instructional assistant calls the student's parents and notifies them that the student is scheduled to remain on campus after school the next day for a mandatory study session.
  • The next day, the instructional assistant gives the student a reminder slip during the last period of the day.
  • The student stays for the mandatory study session until the assignment is complete. (The instructional assistant runs the study session every day from 3 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.)
  • The student turns in the assignment to the teacher and the teacher deletes the student's name from the spreadsheet.

From time to time, I'll highlight a successful intervention strategy that seems to be working at Envision Schools. Please share your own ideas, or tell us about how your school deals with this issue.

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